The employer and individual employees of the employer may be named defendants in an action alleging unlawful discrimination under a "condonation theory"
Emengo v State of New York, 2016 NY Slip Op 06734, Appellate Division, First Department
Benedict O. Emengo filed a CPLR Article 78 petition in Supreme Court alleging that he was adversely treated by his employer, the New York State Insurance Fund and certain NYSIF administrator* [NYSIF] because his color, national origin and that although he was well-qualified for promotion to positions he sought, was refused promotion to these positions.
Supreme Court granted NYSIF’s motion to dismiss Emengo’s petition but the Appellate Division unanimously modified, on the law, certain of Emengo’s causes of action dismissed by the lower court.
The Appellate Division said the Emengo’s allegations that one administrator told him that “he was an ‘immigrant’ who ‘should be content’ with his current job title, ‘since, as an immigrant, he would never be promoted beyond’ his current title” and that another administrator “was previously found to have discriminated against black NYSIF** employees” constitute sufficient evidence of discriminatory animus.
The court also held that Emengo had “sufficiently alleges that each individual defendant was an ‘employer’ for purposes of his claims, broadly asserting that each individual defendant was a high-ranking manager with, at least inferentially, supervisory powers, including the power to promote, discipline and terminate employees.”
The Appellate Division also noted that Emengo had alleged that “there was a long-standing policy of refusing to promote black NYSIF employees above the title of Supervising Insurance Field Investigator, that all of the individual defendants were at least aware of this policy, that all of the individual defendants were aware that [Emengo] was being refused promotions in accordance with this policy, and that none of the defendants took any action in response to this conduct.” Citing State Div. of Human Rights v St. Elizabeth's Hosp., 66 NY2d 684, and Patrowich v Chemical Bank, 63 NY2d 541, the court ruled that Emengo had “adequately pleaded employer liability as to all of the individual defendants, under a condonation theory”***within the meaning of Executive Law §296[a].
NYSIF agreed that Emengo’s claims against the State of New York and NYSIF "rise or fall with his claims against the six individual defendants," his claims against the State and NYSIF under the State’s Human Rights Law, including his causes of action for retaliation and for aiding and abetting discrimination, should be reinstated.
Emengo has also asked the Appellate Division to reinstate his claims under the New York City Human Rights Law [City HRL]. Supreme Court had dismissed his City HRL claims on the independent ground of sovereign immunity. Emengo, said the Appellate Division, was required on the independent ground of sovereign immunity, whether or not the failed to address this aspect of the Supreme Court’s decision and deemed him to have abandoned his appeal with respect to Supreme Court’s dismissal of his City HRL claims.
* The NYSIF administrators are denominated “John and Jane Doe” in the caption of the decision.
** The decision notes that Emengo “was a black man of Nigerian national origin.”
*** An essential ingredient of condonation is knowledge of the infraction alleged to have been condoned. In Matter of State Div. of Human Rights v St. Elizabeth's Hosp., 66 NY2d 684, the court held that “An employer will be liable for ‘an employee's discriminatory act [where] the employer became a party to it by encouraging, condoning, or approving it.’” Further, said the court, “the term condonation includes … ‘[a]n employer's calculated inaction in response to discriminatory conduct.’”
The decision is posted on the Internet at: